The most secretive coaching search of the spring ended with the most obvious candidate landing the job.
Kim Anderson, a former Missouri player and assistant coach, will be introduced as the Tigers' next coach, the school announced Monday afternoon. Anderson, 58, has spent the past 12 seasons with Central Missouri, compiling a 274-94 record and leading the Mules to the Division II national championship this past season.
Monday's announcement ends 10 days of speculation that arose when former Mizzou coach Frank Haith made the surprising decision to leave for lower-profile Tulsa rather than risk being unable to survive a likely rebuilding year with the Tigers. Haith had lost standout guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson from an underachieving 2013-14 team that missed the NCAA tournament because it was neither efficient enough on offense nor fundamentally sound enough defensively.
The hiring of Anderson is a calculated risk to address those and other issues.
Anderson's Central Missouri teams had a reputation for disciplined, fundamentally sound basketball, not exactly the image of Mizzou basketball during the fast-and-loose Quin Snyder era, the helter-skelter Mike Anderson regime or Haith's brief three-year tenure. Anderson's track record suggests he is also unlikely to run afoul of the NCAA, something with eroded support for both Snyder and Haith.
And lastly, there's zero chance Anderson will pull an Anderson or Haith and leave for a job considered either a lateral or backward move. Anderson has strong ties to Mizzou, having played under Norm Stewart from 1973-77, earned Big Eight player of the year as a senior and later coached under Stewart in the early 1980s.
"I'm honored and humbled to have the opportunity to return to Mizzou and lead a program that our family is so vested in," Anderson said in a statement Monday. "When we took over in Warrensburg 12 years ago, we faced an uphill battle. We had support, we had a winning history and great campus leadership, but the program had lost its identity. I see that same opportunity here at Missouri."
What will keep the hire of Anderson from being universally praised are questions about whether he can get elite prospects to buy into his system the way he did Division II kids and whether he can recruit successfully at the Division I level.
Anderson clearly has enough ties and standing among in-state coaches to contend to land the state's best talent each year. That could help keep a Tyler Hansbrough or Otto Porter from venturing out-of-state, but Anderson still may need assistants with experience recruiting at the highest level to help secure enough top talent.
Those concerns were enough for Missouri to bypass Anderson in its previous three searches. They're also surely what made athletic director Mike Alden take a long look at Ben Howland and wait until after the first big recruiting weekend of the spring to pluck a coach in Anderson who likely would have instantly said yes whenever he received an offer.
From Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to Nebraska coach Tim Miles to Michigan coach John Beilein, there's a growing list of coaches who have cut their teeth at the lower levels yet found success once they made the leap to the big stage.
Anderson has a chance to follow that same path. The timing is certainly right for Missouri to give it a shot.
- - - - - - -